How Barbecue Works

Barbecue Around the World
Cooks make Jamaican-style jerk chicken at the Notting Hill Carnival in London. Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images

While American barbecue purists like to think their cooking style is something distinctly American, at the most basic level, the idea of cooking meat over a fire is pretty much universal. Other countries across the globe have cooking styles that are similar in some ways to American barbecue, though they have significant differences too.

Here are some of the many international versions of barbecue [sources: Elie, Zamora].

  • Jamaica: European explorers first encountered barbecue in the Caribbean, so it's not surprising that people of this island nation have their own barbecue style, called jerk — meat is given a spicy run and cooked on a metal frame over hot coals.
  • South Africa: The South African version of barbecue is braii, a word that refers both to the metal or brick pit in which the meat is grilled, and to the gathering at which it's served.
  • Mexico: In a fashion similar to whole-hog barbecue in the American South, whole goats are butterflied — that is, sliced to separate the meat from the bone — and then skewered and cooked over a low fire.
  • Philippines: Lechon, also known as lechon baboy, is a type of cooking that's a staple at birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Whole pigs are roasted and the meat is served on skewers, with sides of noodles and rice and sweet gravy called mang tomas.
  • Korea: Korean-style barbecue is what American purists would call grilling, because marinaded meats — such as bulgogi (beef sirloin) and galbi (beef short ribs) are thinly sliced and cooked quickly on a tabletop grill. It's often followed by a shot of soju, a Korean rice-based liquor.
  • India: Instead of using an open fire, Indian cooks do their grilling inside a buried clay pit called a tandoor. In tandoori cooking, meats, seafood and vegetables are marinated in an orange mix of yogurt, spices and other ingredients, and then grilled on vertical skewers.
  • Brazil: During a churrasco (a Portuguese word for grilled meat or for barbecue)the meat is usually skewered, set above charcoal embers and roasted. This style of cooking is also popular in other parts of Latin America.

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